How to sleep better
Did you know one night's sleep deprivation is equivalent to the damage of smoking one pack of cigarettes on the molecular level?
Knowing the importance of sleep to good health here's how to sleep better the scientifically proven way:
1. Regularity: keep a regular schedule of sleep. Even if you had a late night and feel exhausted the day after, try to wake up the same time you normally would to allow your body a chance to reset. You can try to go to bed slightly earlier to catch up that night. Once the circadian rhythm is disrupted it is difficult to get back on track.
2. Stay away from the light: light inhibits the release of melatonin which induces the onset of sleepiness. This is especially true when it comes to blue light emitted from devices. The brain is tricked into thinking that it is still day time and is prevented from falling asleep. Try to dim the light in the room 30 minutes before sleep and stay away from phones and tablets to protect your brain from blue light.
3. Coffee and alcohol: coffee contains caffeine which blocks the effect of adenosine, the chemical that signals sleepiness in the brain. Caffeine consumption less than 6 hours before sleep prevents you from entering deep sleep. As a result your sleep is less restorative and you will wake up feeling tired. Many people believe that alcohol will help you sleep. While alcohol helps one falling asleep, it also prevents REM sleep, the stage of sleep that restores the brain. That's why you will feel groggy and tired waking up from a heavy night's drinking.
4. Keep it cool:the body enters sleep better when the body temperature drops by 2-3 degrees.This can be a cool environment ( around 19 degrees Celsius). Warming your body with a hot shower and step into a cool room will also help.
5. Have good sleep habits: if you can not sleep, rather get up, go to another room and read a "real" book until you feel sleepy ( no screen time, food or alcohol). Lying awake in bed staring into your devices will only train you brain into associating the bed with a dungeon of sleeplessness. Break the pattern and be the master of your own sleep.
6. Reduce the Salt: a recent Japanese study showed that if you reduce your salt intake especially at night, you are less likely to get up to pee in the middle of the night which can break your sleep pattern.
7. Use sleep adjuncts: there are many things that can help you get back on track with your circadian rhythm especially if you are out of sync due to unusual events e.g. travelling, noise, etc... Melatonin tablets can help tremendously in such cases. White noise/pink noise have also been found to be helpful to induce the mind to a sleepy state. Essential oil such as lavender has been proven to be effective to induce sleep.